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Nutrition for Swimming

Swimming is a demanding sport that requires long training hours and demanding competitions. Nutritional planning is an area that is often overlooked and can be a key factor in your overall success. Nutrition is always something that swimmers/parents dread as they fear that they will be told what they can or can't eat, or told to eat foods that they dislike. Outlined below are a number of key facts that should help you understand the importance of nutrition, especially as an athlete. Your body needs high quality fuel, to give a high quality performance.

Fruit and Vegetables

Energy is the result of chemical reactions that take place within every cell of the body, causing the breakdown of carbohydrates, fat and protein.

A young athlete will be looking to have a diet that contains approximately 60-70% Carbohydrate,10-15% Protein and 20-25% Fat .

Carbohydrates come in two forms: sugars and starches. Swimmers should try and ensure that a high percentage of their carbohydrate intake is in the form of starch as this sustains the energy levels over longer periods.

Ensure that that your diet is made up of a variety of carbohydrates, maintaining the interest in food. Experiment with different types of carbohydrate to see which ones give you the most energy and suit you the best.

Refuel your body as soon as possible after training, especially if you are injured or you are recovering from injury. Cereal Bars, breakfast cereals, bananas, bagels are good examples of food to be eaten after training.

Protein is part of every cell structure and is needed for growth and repair. Protein in the diet is especially important after heavy training sessions where the muscle glycogen stores are low. Meat, fish poultry, eggs and milk are the best sources of protein as they contain all of the essential amino acids.

Fat is required in small quantities, especially for rebuilding nerve fibres, cell membranes and skin. It also a concentrated form of energy used when training at low levels of intensity. Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for us.

Fluids are very important especially during exercise.

Drink before, during and after exercise. A little and often

DO NOT wait until you are thirsty. When you feel thirsty it means that you are beginning to get dehydrated.

Water, diluted fruit juices and well diluted squash drinks are ideal. Avoid fizzy drinks and drinks with high sugar content.

Looking at your diet and experimenting with good nutritious food should be an enjoyable process and not something to be dreaded.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else because everyone’s needs are completely unique to them.

It is what works for you that really matters.

Competition Needs

Never use any foods that you might be sensitive or allergic to.

DO NOT change your diet before a race unless you have done so before and it worked for you.

The pre event meal should avoid high fibre meals especially if you suffer from pre-event nerves. The timing or size of the meal will depend on the event times and the individual.

Try and consume a meal containing both protein and high carbohydrates such as chicken and rice or fish and potatoes. The meal should also be low in fat. The major nutritional aims are to ensure maximum storage of glycogen, without discomfort prior to the race.

Fluid is essential throughout the competition and prior to the events.

Food ingested during competition depends on the individual, snacking is often the accepted norm during competition.

High carbohydrate meals or snacks are important, provided they are low in fat. It is important to maintain the energy levels.

Post event refuelling and re-hydrating is essential.

Simple food is needed to replace energy lost immediately. Within 1-2 hours after the event you should aim for another carbohydrate and protein meal (mainly carbohydrate).